Self Care and Trauma Stewardship


Self Care and Trauma Stewardship

I’ll admit it. When I first saw I had to read an entire book on self-care for the Trauma Sensitive Yoga program I am taking, I kinda groaned inside. In fact, for the first three chapters, I thought “Yeah, yeah, I know all this,” because, really, over my career I’ve read lots about self-care, gone to seminars, etc. I felt like I knew it all intellectually, even though I knew I hadn’t done a great job of embodying the principles in my life.

Then I got to Chapter 4: The Sixteen Warning Signs of Trauma Exposure Response. Uh oh. I knew I was in trouble. It had been 5 years since I had worked in an extremely high stress job as a front line social worker where I had completely burned out. After recovering from burn out, I did some clinical social work for a couple of years and I thought I was good. I thought I had healed and was over it all. But then, I read the 16 warnings signs and realized I still bore the battle scars.

Hypervigilance. Fear. Guilt. Feeling that I can never do enough. Chocolate and coffesque beverages.

chocolate and coffee are not self care remedies

Okay, I know that last one – chocolate, coffesque beverages – sounds funny, but it’s actually an addiction to sugar and caffeine. It’s a way to self-medicate from stress. It’s an addiction. Some people drink copious amounts of coffee or tea to survive the day. Some people need to have a glass of wine or a beer at the end of the day to “unwind” but let’s call a spade a spade – it’s a form of evading the present moment…. an escape. My escape comes in the form of dark chocolate and coffesque beverages.

Even when I was reading the book, I felt myself feeling an emotional flashback. I felt the feelings of overwhelm, discouragement and darkness crowd in on me as I remember feeling helpless to help my clients. Feeling like no matter what I did, I couldn’t break the cycle for them or bring them freedom from the chains that bound them to darkness. Apparently it’s still there lurking in the corners of my mind and heart.

Then I got to the next five chapters: The Five Directions – a method of stewarding trauma to keep yourself healthy and whole. I was curious to see if these five directions would resonate with me or if they would seem kinda “airy fairy.”

The Five Directions:

North – Water – Creating Space for Inquiry – “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

East – Fire – Choosing our Focus – “Where am I putting my focus? What is my plan B?”

South – Earth – “Creating a community and practicing compassion for self and others.”

West – Air – Finding Balance – “Engaging with our lives outside of work. Moving energy through. Gratitude.”

Space – A Daily Practice of Centering Myself.

These directions all resonated with me to varying degrees. I definitely felt more pulled to West – Air – Engaging with our lives outside of work, moving energy through and gratitude and Space – A Daily Practice of Centering Myself.

So what have I done to embrace self care over the past couple of weeks?

space and alone time is a healthy self care remedy

It’s been small things, itty bitty things but they are making a difference.

I made space in my life. I said no to some requests from others – both in my personal life and my professional life. No to coffee with a good friend was self care last week. No to networking events is self care for me. Everytime I engage in an activity I’m giving away a piece of my energy. Kinda like coins in a bank and as an introvert I need to make sure I have enough alone time, enough down time, for coins to go back into bank. Otherwise, I’ll be empty.

I started breathing. I know that sounds weird for a yoga teacher but I realized I wasn’t really breathing. Owning a busy yoga studio and raising three children is a busy gig, especially when one of them has a severe disability. I was breathing shallow. A lot. This was putting my nervous system into constant hyper alert. So I started to take time throughout my day here and there to remember to take deep breaths. Here and there. At my computer. Driving in the car. Eating dinner. Reading to my kids. Inhale Exhale.

I felt guilt saying no to time with a friend. I felt guilty not showing up to networking events. Heck, I even bailed on Thanksgiving dinner with my in laws because I had bad cold. But the guilt – those are just lies in my head.  Those are lies that come from a world that is in constant overdrive telling me I must not be good enough, I must have failed if I can’t do it all. I’m starting to call the bluff on that. Our culture is full of so much anxiety and stress because everyone is constantly moving at a frenetic pace and I don’t want to partake in that.

I continue to reflect on how I can make more space in my life because that’s my biggest form of self care right now. Space. I need lots of space. Akash as we say in Sanskrit. Akash.